The Effects of Online Teaching Experience and Institution Type on Faculty Perceptions of Teaching Online



Deborah L. Windes
Trinity Christian College
flesht@illinois.edu

Faye L. Lesht
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
deborah.windes@trnty.edu

Abstract

In light of the recent growth of online education and its disruptive impact on higher education, this study compared faculty attitudes toward teaching online across institution type, including community colleges and four-year public and private institutions, as well as across faculty with and without online teaching experience. While the data reflected similarities across groups, there were also striking differences which included the following: experienced online community college faculty indicated more so than those at four-year public/private institutions that online education was inferior to face-to-face instruction; intellectual property was reported as more important to those who had not taught online than to those who have online teaching experience across all settings; and community college faculty reported more negative attitudes toward online education over the past five years than did those at other types of institutions in the study. At the same time, faculty members who responded to this study were influenced to engage, or consider engaging, in online teaching in order to meet students' needs, reach new students not previously served by the institution, discover ways to enhance and strengthen teaching through new technologies, and increase the flexibility of their schedules. It appears there are different perceptions and motivating factors across institutional types for teaching online, which may influence institutional strategies.

I. Introduction

In recent years, higher education has been faced with dramatic changes, many of which can be explained within the framework of Disruptive Innovation Theory [1] which postulates two types of technological change: sustaining technological changes and disruptive technological changes. A sustaining innovation is one that serves the needs of existing customers. In such a scenario, a product or service may be enhanced, but will not result in major changes in the market or its audience. A disruptive innovation, on the other hand, is one that eventually replaces a product or service with something more accessible to a new population of customers, enabling new companies to emerge and then dominate the industry [2].  

Many have pointed to online education as a disruptive innovation within higher education. Students that were not well served by traditional colleges have seen their options increase as the number of online courses and programs has grown. While initially resistant, many established institutions of higher education are now attempting to compete with early adopters by developing online programs in order to reach this underserved market.

In a prior study looking at how Disruptive Innovation Theory can be applied to the diffusion of online education, the authors found that the growth of online education has been a "bottom up" affair, initiated by pioneering faculty members rather than the board rooms of leading universities [3]. This study set out to explore this further, looking at whether faculty perceptions of online education differ at 3 types of institutions: Community Colleges, Public 4-year Universities, and Private 4-year Colleges. Would faculty members at community colleges see online education as less disruptive because their mission is already focused on students who require flexibility and do not want to or cannot move to a residential campus? Is there evidence that these faculty have more positive perceptions of online education and would have chosen to participate at an earlier time than their peers at institutions serving predominantly full-time residential students? 

Building on this, we also set out to explore the factors that both motivate and dissuade faculty from teaching online. Over the past decade a number of studies have been conducted on factors influencing faculty to teach online [3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. Within these studies, there seems to be consistency in terms of which factors promote or discourage teaching online. Motivating factors include enhanced instruction through innovative uses of technology, the ability to respond to student demands, flexibility of schedules, instructional design support, and, at times, additional pay. Factors hindering teaching online include concerns about the quality of online education, the amount of time it takes to develop online courses, and the potential loss of contact with students. At the same time, there remains limited literature that compares faculty attitudes about teaching online across institution type and online teaching experience. In an effort to further broaden our understanding of factors influencing faculty to teach online, this study expands the research to focus on how institutional type as well as online teaching experience influence faculty perceptions of online education.

II. Related Literature

While the growth of online courses within higher education has been dramatic in recent years [10, 11, 12], skepticism remains among administrators, faculty, students, and the public about whether online instruction offers the same quality of education that is found in residential courses [3, 12, 13, 14]. A recent study by Allen and Seaman [15] reported that 66% of professors surveyed believed that online learning outcomes were inferior or somewhat inferior to outcomes of comparable face-to-face courses. While the same study found that almost half of those who had taught online felt that learning outcomes were equivalent with face-to-face, 39% of faculty with experience teaching online agreed that online learning outcomes were inferior. Allen and Seaman's most recent survey of chief academic officers found that from the perspective of these administrators, faculty acceptance of online learning had decreased since their 2011 study, the acceptance rate being lower than in 2004 [12]. While the perception of faculty acceptance varies by whether or the degree to which the institution offers courses online, fewer than half of the administrators at schools that offer online programs expressed the view that their faculty accepted the value and legitimacy of online education. A survey by Picciano, Seaman, and Allen [16] found that 70% of faculty respondents viewed online education as inferior or somewhat inferior to face-to-face instruction, whether or not they had experience teaching online. In addition, a recent study by the Pew Research Center found that while 51% of college presidents indicated that online courses provided the same value as residential courses, only 29% of the public surveyed agreed [17]. 

At the same time, both faculty and administrators have challenged early negative assumptions about the value of online education.  While the 2013 report from Allen and Seaman reported that chief academic officers saw less acceptance of online education by their faculty, the same report found that 77% of administrators perceived online education learning outcomes were as good or better than face-to-face instruction, an increase of 57% since 2003 [12]. In addition, the recent growth of MOOCs (and other online formats) is being led by top research universities, some of which have not previously offered online courses [12]. Some institutions and their faculty are looking to the value of online education for what residential instruction cannot offer, including increased flexibility and access for those unable to attend programs on campus, courses in specialized areas that can pull in students from multiple campuses, and innovative ways of teaching that online education encourages.

Whatever one's view of online instruction, it is becoming clear that it is acting as a "disrupter" of higher education [1, 2, 3]. The recent moves by elite universities to offer free online classes to large audiences is adding weight to the position that online education is not only here to stay, but also will be a major player within higher education. As a result, institutions are increasingly faced with questions of how, when, or whether they should provide online instruction for their students. Central to this decision is faculty willingness to participate in online course development or instruction and whether they will support their institution's efforts to broaden its online course offerings.

Within the literature on the growth of online education, researchers have begun to explore factors that facilitate and inhibit participation of faculty in online education. Allen and Seaman's 2008 report found that the most important motivational factor for teaching online was flexibility in meeting student needs [10]. A recent study released by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities–Sloan National Commission on Online Learning [13] increased understanding of how faculty members at four-year public institutions perceive online education. It found that increased access for students is a motivating factor to participate. However, perceptions of inferior quality remain an issue for faculty. In addition, the lack of campus support structures (e.g., instructional design and technical support) and the need for additional effort on the part of the faculty are seen as barriers to participation.

The amount of time and effort it takes to develop and teach a course [5, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21], the faculty reward structure and perceptions of quality [22], the institution's recognition of effort [6], intellectual property issues [23], and administrative support [24] are among the factors that research suggests influence faculty members' participation in online education. Meyer [5], in a qualitative study of faculty teaching online, found that faculty were motivated by personal factors (e.g., flexibility, interest in technology, the desire to teach online) and professional factors (e.g., recognition, expansion of student enrollments), with the personal and professional factors closely interwoven. Rockwell, Schauer, Fritz, and Marx [8] found that the primary incentives for faculty to participate in distance education focused on intrinsic rewards, such as self-gratification, fulfilling a personal desire to teach, and the opportunity to provide innovative instruction. This same study found that the obstacles to adapting their courses for distance education included time requirements and the need to develop the necessary technological skills.

A National Education Association survey of both distance learning and traditional faculty reported that while many faculty members feared that they would be asked to work more with no additional compensation and that they would not be fairly compensated for intellectual property, these concerns were outweighed by the prospect of being able to reach more students [25]. A 2003 meta-analysis of the literature found that both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards facilitate faculty participation [7]. The early research seems to indicate that while faculty are motivated by increased stipends and release time, the lure of a more flexible schedule, the ability to reach a wider audience, and self-satisfaction can be more significant motivators. In fact, a study by Orr, Williams, and Pennington [6] reported that while compensation was viewed favorably, faculty interviewed said that their motivation to teach online was driven more by intrinsic factors, including a desire to help meet students' needs.

A 2009 study looked at how certain variables influence faculty acceptance of online learning [26]. The authors examined whether online learning was consistent with faculty's professional values and norms, perceptions of institutional support of online learning, change (whether they perceived that online learning would lead to either a job change or institutional change), and whether they perceived that the costs would outweigh the benefits. The authors found that perceptions of how online learning would lead to institutional change elicited the highest degree of concern among faculty and administrators at the five institutions studied.

Research has also found that motivating factors can vary depending upon whether or not the instructor has taught online previously. A 1998 survey of faculty and deans at one institution found that faculty with experience teaching distance education courses were motivated by the ability to reach audiences not able to attend classes on campus, the opportunity to develop new ideas, a personal motivation to use technology, intellectual challenge, and overall job satisfaction. Those who had not taught in distance education indicated that they would be motivated to do so for an increase in salary, monetary support, the opportunity to develop new ideas, an improvement in working conditions (hours, location), and intellectual challenge [4]. Schifter [9] found that intrinsic issues (e.g., intellectual challenge) motivated those already participating more than those who did not participate in distance education. Faculty members who did not participate were more affected by personal needs, such as release time and merit pay. One conclusion of this study was that while administrators seemed to understand the inhibiting factors that played a role in faculty participation, they did not seem to understand the factors that would actually motivate faculty to teach distance courses.

Another variance that has only recently received attention is the difference in attitudes toward online learning between faculty members at different types of institutions. Allen and Seaman [15] examined differences in attitudes and practices between four-year and two-year institutions, finding that faculty at two-year institutions expressed more positive views toward the growth of online education (49%) than those at four-year schools (40%). In contrast, faculty at four-year institutions in the study viewed the quality of online education more negatively than their peers at two-year institutions.
 
According to Picciano et al. [16], six years of data have shown that public colleges and universities, particularly community colleges, are offering the major proportion of online courses. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 82% of community colleges and 79% of research universities offer online classes, while only 61% of four-year private colleges do the same [17]. The college presidents surveyed for this study varied in their perceptions of the value of online education, depending upon institutional type. Sixty-six percent of community college presidents were most likely to agree that online classes had the same value as face-to-face classes, while presidents at public four-year institutions were almost equally divided on the question (50% agreed, while 48% disagreed). Only 36% of four-year private college presidents agreed.

While there has been considerable research on faculty attitudes toward online education, a closer examination of those attitudes within the context of online experience and the type of institution at which the faculty member teaches is warranted. Given the differences in mission and perceptions between institutional type, would we not expect that the factors motivating or inhibiting faculty to engage in online teaching might vary between institutions? And if differences were found, would not strategic approaches to the introduction of online education need to vary according to institution type?

III. Methodology

The sample included faculty in community colleges as well as faculty in four-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities in the Midwest. Faculty members were randomly sampled per institution. Electronic requests to participate were successfully sent to 3,021 potential participants; 342 faculty responded—an 11% return rate. A total of 157 respondents indicated that they were from 4-year public institutions, 58 were from 4-year private colleges, and 69 were from community colleges. Twenty-six respondents responded "other" to the question of institutional classification, with the remainder not responding to this question. The institutions from which the sample was drawn included commuter-type and residential campuses of varying sizes. Faculty with and those without online teaching experience were eligible to participate in the study.

A Likert-type survey (Appendix A), including a few open-ended questions, was designed based on the authors' earlier exploratory study [3]. The survey was sent electronically to faculty at institutions that, for the most part, had been part of the authors' pilot study. Numerical data were analyzed using frequency/percentages of responses per question, and the qualitative data were analyzed for generic themes. Data were compared across the different types of institutions and teaching experiences of participants. However, due to distinct differences in mission and scope of institutions in this study the authors paid close attention to within-group analyses. That is, community college respondents with and without online teaching experience were compared to each other, as were public four-year faculty and private four-year faculty respondents. Generic themes in the data were compared across institution type and online teaching experience or lack thereof.

IV. Results

A. Demographic information

The majority of community college faculty that participated in this study have previously taught online (70%) and were mainly (over 95%) full-time tenure-track faculty; 41% of public institution participants had previously taught fully online courses, with 73% indicating they were full-time tenure-track faculty at the time of the survey; the majority of private institution faculty participants had not previously taught online (69%), and the majority of those were full-time tenure-track faculty (88%). Except for community college participants, slightly more females than males participated; slightly more community college male faculty than female faculty participated. Most participants were within the 36–65 age range with slightly more being in the 51–65 age range. Most had taught (although not necessarily online) for at least 11 years. 

B. Perceptions of online education

Initial analyses focused on the differences in perceptions of online education between those who had taught online and those who had not, across all institution types. Faculty with online teaching experience at community colleges expressed stronger agreement with the statement that online education was inferior than did faculty who had taught online in other settings (Table 1).

 

Agree/Strongly Agree

Disagree/Strongly Disagree

Community College

40%

44%

Private Institutions

28%

45%

Public Institutions

28%

49%

Table 1: Responses of Faculty Who Have Taught Online on Whether Online Education Is Inferior to Face-to-Face Instruction

In contrast, a majority of faculty at public and private institutions who had not taught online agreed that online education was inferior, but those at community colleges who had not taught online were less likely to believe that online education was inferior (Table 2).

 

Agree/Strongly Agree

Disagree/Strongly Disagree

Community College

29%

29%

Private Institutions

58%

23%

Public Institutions

63%

24%

Table 2: Responses of Faculty Who Have Not Taught Online on Whether Online Education Is Inferior to Face-to-Face Instruction

C. Preparation Time and Assistance

For those who had not taught online, there were similar responses across institutional type to the statement that "Teaching online requires more preparation than does teaching face-to-face." Fifty-three percent of those who had not taught online agreed that teaching online requires more preparation than teaching face-to-face, while those with online teaching experience felt even more strongly, agreeing or strongly agreeing that online teaching required more preparation. At public institutions 85% of those with online teaching experience indicated that online teaching takes more preparation, followed by those at private institutions (72%) and then those at community colleges (66%).

However, assistance adapting courses online was viewed as more important by those with no online teaching experience than with their experienced counterparts, though such assistance was important across groups. Of those who had not taught online, 90% saw it as important or very important that instructional design assistance be provided, while 75% of those who had taught online felt the same. 

When it comes to the importance of receiving release time for teaching online, 81% of those without online experience indicated that this was important or very important, while 65% of those who had taught online agreed. Faculty members at public institutions in this sample were more likely to be paid extra to teach online (25%) than those at community colleges (5%) and private institutions (11%).

D. Faculty Perceptions of Institutional Support for Online Teaching

According to this study's participants, teaching online is not a "core" expectation at any of these institutions. In fact, in response to the item "[Online education] is part of the strategic plan of the institution," relatively small percentages thought online teaching was in the plan (32% private; 32% public; 29% community college). However, to the item "They [referring to the administration] are strongly encouraging faculty to go online, and provide resources to do so," private institutions responded affirmatively at 16%, public institutions at 25%, and community colleges at 51%. At the same time, while all settings generally indicated a shift to "more positive" views in response to the item "Have you noticed any changes toward online education in your institution in the past 5 years?" 17% of those at community colleges in the study noticed a negative shift, while only 7% of private and public faculty reported a negative shift.

Most participants agreed, to the extent that they were aware of the policy at their institution, that faculty were not expected to teach online at their respective institutions (Table 3). While this was true for all institution types, the data for private institutions indicated that while a majority of those who had taught online agreed that faculty members weren't expected to teach online, 39% indicated that there were expectations, more than for public institutions and community colleges. However, it is interesting to note that none of the respondents from private institutions who had not taught online agreed that there were any expectations to teach online.

 

Taught Online

Not Taught Online

 

Agree/SAgree

Disagree/SDisagree

Agree/SAgree

Disagree/SDisagree

Community College

27%

63%

14%

52%

Private Institutions

39%

56%

0%

83%

Public Institutions

19%

60%

13%

59%

Table 3: Responses of Faculty On Whether There are Institutional Expectations to Teach Online

In addition, while retaining intellectual property rights was important to all faculty members, it was more important to those who had not taught online (85%) versus 73% for those who had taught online.

E. Factors Influencing Faculty to Teach or to Consider Teaching Online

Respondents with experience in online teaching were also asked to indicate what motivated them to teach online. While the majority of these respondents saw "meeting the needs of our students" as a top motivator, this was particularly true of community colleges, followed by public and then private institutions. In terms of reaching new students, however, 67% of community college faculty saw this as a motivator, but only 30% of private school faculty agreed. Discovering how technology could enhance their teaching was a top motivator for all 3 groups, as was the appeal of a flexible schedule (Table 4).

Community Colleges

Public Institutions (4-year)

Private Institutions

Meeting Students' Needs 77%

Meeting Students' Needs 66%

Meeting Students' Needs   53%

Reach New Students 67%

Discover new technology 66%

Discover new technology 53%

Discover new technology 60%

Reach New Students 54%

Assigned to teach online 41%

Flexible Schedule   44%

Assigned to teach online 46%

Flexible Schedule   30%

Tech Design & Support 42%

Flexible Schedule 39%

Reach New Students 30%

Table 4: Top 5 Motivating Factors for Faculty Who Have Taught Online, by Institution Type (in order of highest ratings)

When those who had not taught online were asked what factors would motivate them to teach online, all groups responded they would do so if they could "ensure that quality is not compromised," "if it would meet students' needs," and because it would "allow for more flexible schedules" (Table 5). While the results vary slightly across settings, the majority of four-year private and public school faculty stated that receiving an increase in pay or a stipend was important (around 60%), while 28% of community college faculty agreed.

Community Colleges

Public Institutions (4-year)

Private Institutions

Quality not compromised 76%

Quality not compromised 71%

Quality not compromised 73%

Meet student's needs 62%

Meet student's needs 66%

Meet student's needs 70%

Reach new students 62%

Tech Design & Support 64%

Tech Design & Support 63%

Flexible schedule 57%

Stipend/increase in pay 59%

Stipend/increase in pay 60%

Tech Design & Support 52%

Flexible schedule 58%

Flexible schedule 50%

Table 5: Top 5 Motivating Factors for Faculty Who Have Not Yet Taught Online to Teach Online (in order of highest ratings)

F. Challenges and Anticipated Challenges of Teaching Online

When those who have taught online were asked to identify the factors that have made online teaching challenging, some interesting results emerged. While faculty across all settings indicated that the greater time commitment was a challenge, only 44% of private college faculty agreed, while a majority of community college and public faculty agreed. Also, while all agreed that loss of interaction with students was a challenge, the results by institution type varied. It was a concern for a majority of community college and private college faculty, but less so for faculty at public institutions. (Table 6).

Community Colleges

         Public Institutions

Private Institutions

Lost interaction with students 67%

Time Commitment 69%

Lost interaction with students 56%

Time Commitment 60%

Lost interaction with students 46%

Time Commitment 44%

Adapting curriculum online 38%

Adapting curriculum online 34%

Lack of experience teaching online 22%

Quality of teaching decreased 36%        

Quality of teaching decreased 25%        

Quality of teaching decreased 22%        

Concerned about IP rights 13%

Concerned about IP rights 20%

Limited technical support 22%

Table 6: Top 5 Challenges for Faculty Who Have Taught Online, by Institution Type

The top inhibitor for faculty who had not taught online was sacrificing interaction with students, a sentiment shared by respondents who had taught online. But within those groups who had not taught online, there was variance by institution type. Public faculty listed sacrificing interaction with students as a concern 71% of the time, while this was true for 63% of community college faculty and 58% of private school faculty. Other inhibitors for those who had not taught online included concerns about quality and adapting curriculum online, both in terms of time and the ability to adapt their curriculum. Concerns about intellectual property rights and technical and design support did emerge, but not to the degree that the authors expected (Table 7).

Community Colleges

Public Institutions

Private Institutions

Sacrificing interaction with students 63%

Sacrificing interaction with students      71%

Sacrificing interaction with students   58%

Not enough time to redesign course       48%

Not enough time to redesign course       56%

Not enough time to redesign course       55%

Difficult to adapt curriculum online 48%

Quality of teaching would decrease   55% 

Quality of teaching would decrease   53%   

Quality of teaching would decrease      37%

Difficult to adapt curriculum online 40%

Difficult to adapt curriculum online 50%

Concern regarding IP rights 37%

Concern regarding IP rights 30%

Not technologically savvy 29%

Table 7: Top 5 Factors That Inhibit Faculty Who Have Not Yet Taught Online From Teaching Online, by Institution Type (in order of highest ratings)

While faculty without online teaching experience at all three settings had "If it was certain quality would not be comprised" as a motivating factor and their second motivator selected was "If it would help us meet the needs of our students," those at community colleges rated "receiving a stipend/increase in pay" considerably lower (29%) in importance than those in public (59%) and private (60%) settings. At the same time, those at private institutions (48%) rated the item "If our peer schools were going online and we saw it as a competitive necessity" higher than those at public institutions (32%) and community colleges (14%).

Those who have taught online were asked to indicate if they thought "student engagement with the material [was] higher in online courses than in face-to-face courses." Those at public institutions seemed to agree with this item in larger numbers than those in other settings (48% as compared to 33% for community college and 28% for private school respondents).

V. Discussion

A key question that guided this study was this:  What can be learned from studying factors that motivate faculty or inhibit them from teaching online across institutional settings that can inform strategic institutional decision making? In light of different missions and perceptions of focus among public, private, and community college institutions, would differences in impressions of online education emerge? 

A. Faculty perceptions of teaching online

There were differences in perceptions of teaching online within and across institution types and online teaching experience or lack thereof. Contrary to our expectations, those at 4-year public and private institutions with online teaching experience indicated more favorable impressions of online teaching as compared to campus-based instruction than those at community colleges with online teaching experience. However, those without online teaching experience at community colleges were more favorable toward online teaching than were those at public and private institutions who had not taught online. While those with online teaching experience in general were more favorable toward online education across institution types than those without such experience, the data reinforced earlier studies that suggest faculty members continue to have concerns about the quality of online education. This study suggests that experience teaching online tends to dissipate concerns about online education among faculty at public and private institutions, but not necessarily among those in community college settings. 

Community college participants indicated that they did not, by and large, receive release time for teaching online. Participants in community college settings also indicated more so than did participants in other settings that while teaching online was strongly encouraged at their institutions, there had been a noted negative shift in institutional attitudes toward online education. Whether that is a negative shift toward teaching online in and of itself or a shift due to increased competition for online students experienced by community colleges is unclear.  For example, while the majority of participants with online teaching experience deemed "competition for students" as a reason to teach online, this was especially the view of public (83%) and private (81%) institution respondents, compared with 76% of community college respondents. However, for those who had not taught online, community college respondents saw competition for students as a more significant motivator (62%) than did those at public (45%) and private (35%) institutions in this study.

This study's results suggest that, for faculty at private and public four-year institutions, experience teaching online tends to equalize perceptions of quality when comparing online to residential instruction.

B. Motivators for teaching online

Across institutions and whether or not faculty members had taught online, concerns related to students emerged. Even though teaching online was viewed by the majority of study participants as more time consuming than "on ground" teaching, and this perception is reinforced by other studies [8 & 13], recognition of student demand for online educational opportunities outweighed other concerns on the part of faculty and encouraged them to teach online [3, 6, 26]. Respondents in this study, as in earlier studies, were interested in meeting students' needs [8, 10, 13] and reaching new markets of students [3] through online education.

Among groups, release time from other teaching seemed particularly important to those at private institutions and somewhat important to those at public four-year and community college settings. Instructional design assistance was deemed a particularly important motivating factor by community college and four-year public institution respondents and slightly important by respondents at private institutions. However, consistent with the work of Parker [7] and Orr, Williams, and Pennington [6], the data of this study suggest that flexible schedules, reaching students, and learning how to use technologies in new ways to strengthen instruction, or  "intrinsic" [5] factors, may motivate faculty more to teach online than increased pay and recognition.  

While viewing online teaching in the promotion and tenure process is important across institution types, whether the faculty member has taught online or not, in this study it was seen as somewhat less important to those at community colleges as at 4-year institutions. While roughly 4 out of 5 faculty members at 4-year schools responded that teaching online should be factored in when one is up for promotion or tenure, 60% of community college faculty, most of whom were on the tenure track, agreed. This variance may be due to the nature of promotion and tenure between institution types.

Ownership (intellectual property) of course material was a more important motivating factor in this study to those who had not taught online. However, respondents from private institutions who had taught online reported it held greater importance than those in community colleges or four-year public institutions.

Consistent across institution types and online experience were responses that indicated participants did not consider it important that others in their departments were teaching online. This was especially true at private 4-year institutions, where 65% of those who had taught online did not see this as important.

At the same time, just over half of community college faculty, whether they had taught online or not, saw it as important that colleagues at peer institutions in their fields were teaching online. Those who had taught online at both public and private institutions did not see this as important (46% and 39% respectively), while those who had not taught online indicated that whether their peers at other institutions taught online was important (55% and 57% respectively).  

C. Challenges and inhibitors to teaching online
 
While there were a number of factors that either inhibited faculty from teaching online or presented challenges to those who already do, three stood out: concerns about student interaction, time demands, and concerns about quality. 

While competition for students and recognition of student demand were motivating factors for many faculty members, the data also indicated that faculty across groups were concerned that through online education they would lose contact with students. It is interesting that this concern was greatest for faculty without online teaching experience at public institutions, but less so for faculty at private institutions and those at public institutions with online teaching experience. This coupled with data suggesting faculty with online teaching experience at public institutions were less concerned about threats to quality than were those at public institutions without online teaching experience suggests there may be other factors involved. For example, perhaps faculty at public institutions find with appropriate instructional design elements incorporated in their online courses they have a bit more contact with students online and offer a course that is at least as demanding as a large lecture course.
 
This trend on the part of public institution faculty noting that online education could be as effective if not more so than face-to-face instruction was reinforced by responses, as noted in the Results section, to the item Student engagement with the material [was] higher in online courses than in face-to-face courses." Those in public institutions agreed with the item more so than did participants at other institutions in the study. The reasons for this variance, perhaps due to differences in how classroom-based courses are designed or differences in class size, warrant further study.

In terms of private institutions, this study suggests a trend toward gradual and cautious increase in online teaching engagement. Faculty at private institutions with no online teaching experience indicated no actual sense of institutional pressure to teach online, and those at private institutions with online teaching experience did not deem teaching online as a serious administrative expectation. At the same time, private institutions were more sensitive to peer activity in terms of online education than were other institutions in this study. 

Issues relating to the amount of time online teaching requires was a concern for both those who had and had not taught online. What is interesting, however, is that those who had taught online were more likely to agree that online teaching requires more preparation than teaching face to face. With the evidence from this study and others [5, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21], it is clear that in order to encourage faculty to teach online, this issue needs to be addressed.  Administrators seeking a growth in their online presence might want to consider how release time and instructional design assistance might assist in their efforts.

Concerns about the quality of online instruction were also found across institution type and online experience. It is interesting to note that community college faculty who had taught online were more concerned about this than their peers at other institutions. However, community college faculty that had not taught online were less concerned than peers at 4-year private and public institutions. One result that may be particularly interesting to administrators is that a majority of those who had not taught online indicated that they would be motivated to teach online if quality were not compromised. 

VI. Conclusion

This research reinforces trends found in earlier research while also pointing to areas in need of further study. For example, across institutions and whether or not faculty members had taught online, concerns related to students emerged. Respondents in this study, as in earlier studies, were interested in meeting students' needs [10, 13]. At the same time, faculty members across groups in this study were concerned that through online education, they would lose contact with students. Release time from other teaching seems particularly important to those at private institutions and somewhat important to those at public four-year and community college settings. Respondents at private institutions deemed instructional design assistance particularly important by community college and four-year public institution respondents and slightly important. However, consistent with the work of Parker [7] and Orr, Williams, and Pennington [6], the data of this study suggest that flexible schedules, reaching students, and learning how to use technologies in new ways to strengthen instruction, i.e., "intrinsic" factors [5], may motivate faculty more to teach online than increased pay and recognition.  

However, this study also suggests there are differences between perceptions of online education depending upon institution type and online teaching experience. In particular, a pattern emerged that distinguished community colleges from public and private institutions, although not consistently at each dimension explored. Community college faculty with online teaching experience were less favorable toward online education than were faculty with online teaching experience in other settings and even as compared to faculty without online teaching experience at community colleges. There was some evidence that perceptions of teaching online at community colleges have become more negative over the past five years according to this limited sample.  In addition, community college faculty were less concerned with receiving additional pay for their efforts than their peers at 4-year institutions. However, competition for students was a strong motivator among community college participants for teaching online. Further research on the impact of online education and community colleges is warranted.

At the same time, there were differences warranting further exploration between 4-year public and private institutions. Faculty at private institutions tended to perceive teaching online as optional, with no sense of urgency on the part of administration to teach online. However, as noted in the results section, if peer schools were going online then more faculty at private institutions thought it would be a "competitive necessity" to move online than did participants from other institutional settings. It is interesting to note the dominance of private institution faculty in MOOC development (e.g., Udacity, Coursera, edX).  Research on trends in online education among private institutions is needed. 

Faculty participants at public institutions in this study suggested that teaching online itself may reduce concerns about quality between online and residential instruction. In particular, faculty with online teaching experience at public institutions seemed a bit less concerned about losing contact with students when teaching online instead of in the classroom. Further study comparing faculty perceptions of large classes to online classes in terms of student contact, participation, and course quality particularly across public institutions would also be useful.

This study also suggests that if administrators want to encourage faculty to teach online, it is important to give consistent messages to that effect in institutional strategic plans, in the promotion and tenure process, and in course-related support (instructional design and wage considerations) to faculty. In addition, administrators might examine how faculty at different types of institutions are motivated. For example, given that community college faculty are less concerned about receiving additional pay than faculty at other types of institutions, other motivational tools might be used by community college administrators when seeking to increase their online presence. At the same time, if administrators and faculty are looking for a single motivating force to encourage online teaching, the results of this and earlier studies suggest that would be student demand. Student demand and its various dimensions (e.g., quality education, flexibility, time-to-degree, etc.) are also worthy of further study in terms of online education and effective institutional responses to student academic needs.

Given the rapid changes occurring in higher education with the growth of online education, there is much research to be done examining the impact of these changes on traditional educational formats. While this study focused on non-profit institutions, the growth in online delivery at for-profit institutions has had a tremendous impact on both profit and non-profit institutions. Future research including these institutions is warranted as well. Also, differences in perceptions between those who teach both face-to-face and online and those who teach only online would be of interest.  

Finally, while much of the literature on disruptive innovation in higher education discusses the disruption across all of higher education, it may be helpful to look at how different types of institutions are responding and how that response predicts survivability over the long term. Given that community colleges are already focused on reaching students who need flexibility, is their involvement in online education a sustaining or disruptive innovation? Because community college faculties are expected to teach online to a larger degree than others, will this help ensure their survival? If subsequent research confirms that perceptions of the quality of online education have diminished among some community college faculty, how will this impact institutional strategy, if at all? Further research in this area is encouraged.


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Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume XVII, Number 1, March 2014
University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center
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